My latest read! I apologize for the sorry state of this blog at the moment. Written by Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin, (a “Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, scientist, revolutionary, philologist, economist, activist, geographer, writer, and prominent anarcho-communist”), this book sets out his vision of a communist society with a decentralized economy based on the satisfaction of human needs.
”All things for all men, since all men have need of them, since all men worked to produce them in the measure of their strength, and since it is not possible to evaluate everyone’s part in the production of the world’s wealth… All is for all!”
And what can I say? You get the impression that this was a man thinking of the best thing that man could be, and - as do all radical thinkers, sets his sights on trying to prove that it is not only preferable, but practical. Does he in my opinion succeed to this end? Well… not quite, he can’t help but express very utopian ideals. There are some things of high merit, such as his objections to a capitalist society, to the privileges the state grants, on how unrational production and distribution is, which still resonate today. As society now is basically a more complex and developed version of the conditions in which he lived, although he wrote in 1892 much of what he said in this book is not outdated - as still we have the case that houses lie empty whilst some freeze on the streets, where some people have too much to eat whilst others have none etc. One interesting point (of which my studies lead me to concur to at least the principle of) throughout the book is his insistence of work days - in good conditions - of only 5 hours. And if you look at workplace efficiency, see the massive gains gained by technological progress etc, and chart it on a graph - alongside that having an “average hours worked” line and taking a sample of say the last ten decades, you can not help but to be astounded by the exponential growth on one hand, and the shallow gradient of decline on the other - how everyone works a fair amount more than you would expect given that you “work to live, not live to work” mantra. And whilst it is not as clear cut as that - as obviously increased life expectancy (looking after the elderly), more wants, waste etc all factor in the result remains the same - that we need to stop being tricked into what is essentially onerous drudgery and start doing things we enjoy more, which would naturally produce things other people like or advance knowledge as hobby-scientists gather around mutually owned laboratories without the need for profit, musicians compose new music etc. For example, something he claims to advance upon in his “Fields, Factories and workshops”, but puts clearly here, is how much work is actually required for what things. He cites the fact that to earn enough money for food, it takes around a thousand hours a year - but if production was optimized, middle men cut out, everyone pulled together to collectively farm etc, it would take only 290 hours out of his year for all the stable foods etc and even some finer things.
I freely admit to cling onto ideas bashed in here such a limited division of labour (as I believe that total division of labour as Adam Smith put it ends with “mental mutilation” if taken to the extremes within working men and results in Marxes famous theory of alienation), but reading ideas to the contrary still make an interesting read whilst ideas grapple and fight one and other within my mind. Anarchists all seem to be spot on about authoritarian communism, and Kropotkin is no exception (in fact decrying the idea of a super-state and personally writing Lenin angry letters! Does Kronstadt not show how the soviets thought of normal people?)